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Li Group | GenitoUrinary Development Molecular Anatomy Project (GUDMAP)
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Li Group

Sean Li (PI)
Harvard Medical School

Project Description

Congenital penile anomalies including hypospadias and ambiguous genitalia occur in 7.8/1,000 newborns. Despite their biological and medical significance, the molecular basis of such birth defects remains largely unexplained. Moreover, the critical GT-specific downstream effectors of sex hormones are yet to be defined. Our findings suggest that the vGTMspecific dimorphic genes may play critical roles in the gender-specific GT differentiation. We hypothesize that Wnt4 expressed from the GT epithelium functions as the permissive signal and; inductive signals including the sex hormones reprogram the GT-specific dimorphic enhancers and induce dimorphic gene expression to form the penis in males and clitoris in female. We aim to determine whether Wnt4 expressed from the GT epithelium is the permissive signal required for penile development, whether sex hormones reprogram the GT-specific landscape of transcription enhancers to control dimorphic gene expression and identify critical GT-specific downstream effectors of sex hormones that induce dimorphic GT differentiation.

Publications

  1. Conserved and Divergent Features of Human and Mouse Kidney Organogenesis.

    Lindström, NO; McMahon, JA; Guo, J; Tran, T; Guo, Q; Rutledge, E; Parvez, RK; Saribekyan, G; Schuler, RE; Liao, C; Kim, AD; Abdelhalim, A; Ruffins, SW; Thornton, ME; Basking, L; Grubbs, B; Kesselman, C; McMahon, AP. J Am Soc Nephrol. February 2018.

    Human kidney function is underpinned by approximately 1,000,000 nephrons, although the number varies substantially, and low nephron number is linked to disease. Human kidney development initiates around 4 weeks of gestation and ends around 34-37 weeks of gestation. Over this period, a reiterative inductive process establishes the nephron complement. Studies have provided insightful anatomic descriptions of human kidney development, but the limited histologic views are not readily accessible to a broad audience. In this first paper in a series providing comprehensive insight into human kidney formation, we examined human kidney development in 135 anonymously donated human kidney specimens. We documented kidney development at a macroscopic and cellular level through histologic analysis, RNA in situ hybridization, immunofluorescence studies, and transcriptional profiling, contrasting human development (4-23 weeks) with mouse development at selected stages (embryonic day 15.5 and postnatal day 2). The high-resolution histologic interactive atlas of human kidney organogenesis generated can be viewed at the GUDMAP database (www.gudmap.org) together with three-dimensional reconstructions of key components of the data herein. At the anatomic level, human and mouse kidney development differ in timing, scale, and global features such as lobe formation and progenitor niche organization. The data also highlight differences in molecular and cellular features, including the expression and cellular distribution of anchor gene markers used to identify key cell types in mouse kidney studies. These data will facilitate and inform in vitro efforts to generate human kidney structures and comparative functional analyses across mammalian species.

  2. Conserved and Divergent Features of Mesenchymal Progenitor Cell Types within the Cortical Nephrogenic Niche of the Human and Mouse Kidney

    Lindström, NO; Guo, J; Kim, AD; Tran, T; Guo, Q; De Sena Brandine, G; Ransick, A; Parvez, RK; Thornton, ME; Basking, L; Grubbs, B; McMahon, JA; Smith, AD; McMahon, AP. J Am Soc Nephrol. February 2018.

    Cellular interactions among nephron, interstitial, and collecting duct progenitors drive mammalian kidney development. In mice, Six2+ nephron progenitor cells (NPCs) and Foxd1+ interstitial progenitor cells (IPCs) form largely distinct lineage compartments at the onset of metanephric kidney development. Here, we used the method for analyzing RNA following intracellular sorting (MARIS) approach, single-cell transcriptional profiling, in situ hybridization, and immunolabeling to characterize the presumptive NPC and IPC compartments of the developing human kidney. As in mice, each progenitor population adopts a stereotypical arrangement in the human nephron-forming niche: NPCs capped outgrowing ureteric branch tips, whereas IPCs were sandwiched between the NPCs and the renal capsule. Unlike mouse NPCs, human NPCs displayed a transcriptional profile that overlapped substantially with the IPC transcriptional profile, and key IPC determinants, including FOXD1, were readily detected within SIX2+ NPCs. Comparative gene expression profiling in human and mouse Six2/SIX2+ NPCs showed broad agreement between the species but also identified species-biased expression of some genes. Notably, some human NPC-enriched genes, including DAPL1 and COL9A2, are linked to human renal disease. We further explored the cellular diversity of mesenchymal cell types in the human nephrogenic niche through single-cell transcriptional profiling. Data analysis stratified NPCs into two main subpopulations and identified a third group of differentiating cells. These findings were confirmed by section in situ hybridization with novel human NPC markers predicted through the single-cell studies. This study provides a benchmark for the mesenchymal progenitors in the human nephrogenic niche and highlights species-variability in kidney developmental programs.

  3. Conserved and Divergent Molecular and Anatomic Features of Human and Mouse Nephron Patterning

    Lindström, NO; Tran, T; Guo, J; Rutledge, E; Parvez, RK; Thornton, ME; Grubbs, B; McMahon, JA; McMahon, AP. J Am Soc Nephrol. February 2018.

    The nephron is the functional unit of the kidney, but the mechanism of nephron formation during human development is unclear. We conducted a detailed analysis of nephron development in humans and mice by immunolabeling, and we compared human and mouse nephron patterning to describe conserved and divergent features. We created protein localization maps that highlight the emerging patterns along the proximal–distal axis of the developing nephron and benchmark expectations for localization of functionally important transcription factors, which revealed unanticipated cellular diversity. Moreover, we identified a novel nephron subdomain marked by Wnt4 expression that we fate-mapped to the proximal mature nephron. Significant conservation was observed between human and mouse patterning. We also determined the time at which markers for mature nephron cell types first emerge—critical data for the renal organoid field. These findings have conceptual implications for the evolutionary processes driving the diversity of mammalian organ systems. Furthermore, these findings provide practical insights beyond those gained with mouse and rat models that will guide in vitro efforts to harness the developmental programs necessary to build human kidney structures.

  4. Development of the Human Fetal Kidney from Mid to Late Gestation in Male and Female Infants

    Ryan, D; Sutherland, MR; Flores, TJ; Kent, AL; Dahlstrom, JE; Puelles, VG; Bertram, JF; McMahon, AP; Little, MH; Moore, L; Black, MJ. EBioMedicine. vol. 27, 275–283. January 2018.

    BACKGROUND: During normal human kidney development, nephrogenesis (the formation of nephrons) is complete by term birth, with the majority of nephrons formed late in gestation. The aim of this study was to morphologically examine nephrogenesis in fetal human kidneys from 20 to 41weeks of gestation. METHODS: Kidney samples were obtained at autopsy from 71 infants that died acutely in utero or within 24h after birth. Using image analysis, nephrogenic zone width, the number of glomerular generations, renal corpuscle cross-sectional area and the cellular composition of glomeruli were examined. Kidneys from female and male infants were analysed separately. FINDINGS: The number of glomerular generations formed within the fetal kidneys was directly proportional to gestational age, body weight and kidney weight, with variability between individuals in the ultimate number of generations (8 to 12) and in the timing of the cessation of nephrogenesis (still ongoing at 37weeks gestation in one infant). There was a slight but significant (r2=0.30, P=0.001) increase in renal corpuscle cross-sectional area from mid gestation to term in females, but this was not evident in males. The proportions of podocytes, endothelial and non-epithelial cells within mature glomeruli were stable throughout gestation. INTERPRETATION: These findings highlight spatial and temporal variability in nephrogenesis in the developing human kidney, whereas the relative cellular composition of glomeruli does not appear to be influenced by gestational age.

  5. An illustrated anatomical ontology of the developing mouse lower urogenital tract

    Georgas, KM; Armstrong, J; Keast, JR; Larkins, CE; McHugh, KM; Southard-Smith, EM; Cohn, MJ; Batourina, E; Dan, H; Schneider, K; Buehler, DP; Wiese, CB; Brennan, J; Davies, JA; Harding, SD; Baldock, RA; Little, MH; Vezina, CM; Mendelsohn, C. Development. vol. 142(10), 1893–908. May 2015.

    Malformation of the urogenital tract represents a considerable paediatric burden, with many defects affecting the lower urinary tract (LUT), genital tubercle and associated structures. Understanding the molecular basis of such defects frequently draws on murine models. However, human anatomical terms do not always superimpose on the mouse, and the lack of accurate and standardised nomenclature is hampering the utility of such animal models. We previously developed an anatomical ontology for the murine urogenital system. Here, we present a comprehensive update of this ontology pertaining to mouse LUT, genital tubercle and associated reproductive structures (E10.5 to adult). Ontology changes were based on recently published insights into the cellular and gross anatomy of these structures, and on new analyses of epithelial cell types present in the pelvic urethra and regions of the bladder. Ontology changes include new structures, tissue layers and cell types within the LUT, external genitalia and lower reproductive structures. Representative illustrations, detailed text descriptions and molecular markers that selectively label muscle, nerves/ganglia and epithelia of the lower urogenital system are also presented. The revised ontology will be an important tool for researchers studying urogenital development/malformation in mouse models and will improve our capacity to appropriately interpret these with respect to the human situation.

  6. Defining the acute kidney injury and repair transcriptome

    Kumar, S; Liu, J; McMahon, AP. Semin Nephrol. vol. 34(4), 404–17. July 2014.

    The mammalian kidney has an intrinsic ability to repair after significant injury. However, this process is inefficient: patients are at high risk for the loss of kidney function in later life. No therapy exists to treat established acute kidney injury (AKI) per se: strategies to promote endogenous repair processes and retard associated fibrosis are a high priority. Whole-organ gene expression profiling has been used to identify repair responses initiated with AKI, and factors that may promote the transition from AKI to chronic kidney disease. Transcriptional profiling has shown molecular markers and potential regulatory pathways of renal repair. Activation of a few key developmental pathways has been reported during repair. Whether these are comparable networks with similar target genes with those in earlier nephrogenesis remains unclear. Altered microRNA profiles, persistent tubular injury responses, and distinct late inflammatory responses highlight continuing kidney pathology. Additional insights into injury and repair processes will be gained by study of the repair transcriptome and cell-specific translatome using high-resolution technologies such as RNA sequencing and translational profiling tailored to specific cellular compartments within the kidney. An enhanced understanding holds promise for both the identification of novel therapeutic targets and biomarker-based evaluation of the damage-repair process.

  7. Defining kidney biology to understand renal disease

    Little, MH; Brown, D.; Humphreys, BD; McMahon, AP; Miner, JH; Sands, JM; Weisz, OA; Mullins, C; Hoshizaki, D; Kidney Research National Dialogue, (KRND). Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. vol. 9(4), 809–11. April 2014.

    The Kidney Research National Dialogue represents a novel effort by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to solicit and prioritize research objectives from the renal research and clinical communities. The present commentary highlights selected scientific opportunities specific to the study of renal development, physiology, and cell biology. Describing such fundamental kidney biology serves as a necessary foundation for translational and clinical studies that will advance disease care and prevention. It is intended that these objectives foster and focus scientific efforts in these areas in the coming decade and beyond.

  8. Retinoid signaling in progenitors controls specification and regeneration of the urothelium

    Gandhi, D; Molotkov, A; Batourina, E; Schneider, K; Dan, H; Reiley, M; Laufer, E; Metzger, D; Liang, F; Liao, Y; Sun, TT; Aronow, B; Rosen, R; Mauney, J; Adam, R; Rosselot, C; Van Batavia, J; McMahon, AP; McMahon, J; Guo, JJ; Mendelsohn, C. Dev Cell. vol. 26(5), 469–482. September 2013.

    The urothelium is a multilayered epithelium that serves as a barrier between the urinary tract and blood, preventing the exchange of water and toxic substances. It consists of superficial cells specialized for synthesis and transport of uroplakins that assemble into a tough apical plaque, one or more layers of intermediate cells, and keratin 5-expressing basal cells (K5-BCs), which are considered to be progenitors in the urothelium and other specialized epithelia. Fate mapping, however, reveals that intermediate cells rather than K5-BCs are progenitors in the adult regenerating urothelium, that P cells, a transient population, are progenitors in the embryo, and that retinoids are critical in P cells and intermediate cells, respectively, for their specification during development and regeneration. These observations have important implications for tissue engineering and repair and, ultimately, may lead to treatments that prevent loss of the urothelial barrier, a major cause of voiding dysfunction and bladder pain syndrome.

  9. A genome-wide screen to identify transcription factors expressed in pelvic Ganglia of the lower urinary tract

    Wiese, CB; Ireland, S; Fleming, NL; Yu, J; Valerius, MT; Georgas, K; Chiu, HS; Brennan, J; Armstrong, J; Little, MH; McMahon, AP; Southard-Smith, EM. Front Neurosci. vol. 6, 130. September 2012.

    Relative positions of neurons within mature murine pelvic ganglia based on expression of neurotransmitters have been described. However the spatial organization of developing innervation in the murine urogenital tract (UGT) and the gene networks that regulate specification and maturation of neurons within the pelvic ganglia of the lower urinary tract (LUT) are unknown. We used whole-mount immunohistochemistry and histochemical stains to localize neural elements in 15.5 days post coitus (dpc) fetal mice. To identify potential regulatory factors expressed in pelvic ganglia, we surveyed expression patterns for known or probable transcription factors (TF) annotated in the mouse genome by screening a whole-mount in situ hybridization library of fetal UGTs. Of the 155 genes detected in pelvic ganglia, 88 encode TFs based on the presence of predicted DNA-binding domains. Neural crest (NC)-derived progenitors within the LUT were labeled by Sox10, a well-known regulator of NC development. Genes identified were categorized based on patterns of restricted expression in pelvic ganglia, pelvic ganglia and urethral epithelium, or pelvic ganglia and urethral mesenchyme. Gene expression patterns and the distribution of Sox10+, Phox2b+, Hu+, and PGP9.5+ cells within developing ganglia suggest previously unrecognized regional segregation of Sox10+ progenitors and differentiating neurons in early development of pelvic ganglia. Reverse transcription-PCR of pelvic ganglia RNA from fetal and post-natal stages demonstrated that multiple TFs maintain post-natal expression, although Pax3 is extinguished before weaning. Our analysis identifies multiple potential regulatory genes including TFs that may participate in segregation of discrete lineages within pelvic ganglia. The genes identified here are attractive candidate disease genes that may now be further investigated for their roles in malformation syndromes or in LUT dysfunction.

  10. Identification of molecular compartments and genetic circuitry in the developing mammalian kidney

    Yu, J; Valerius, MT; Duah, M; Staser, K; Hansard, JK; Guo, JJ; McMahon, J; Vaughan, J; Faria, D; Georgas, K; Rumballe, B; Ren, Q; Krautzberger, AM; Junker, JP; Thiagarajan, RD; Machanick, P; Gray, PA; van Oudenaarden, A; Rowitch, DH; Stiles, CD; Ma, Q; Grimmond, SM; Bailey, TL; Little, MH; McMahon, AP. Development. vol. 139(10), 1863–73. May 2012.

    Lengthy developmental programs generate cell diversity within an organotypic framework, enabling the later physiological actions of each organ system. Cell identity, cell diversity and cell function are determined by cell type-specific transcriptional programs; consequently, transcriptional regulatory factors are useful markers of emerging cellular complexity, and their expression patterns provide insights into the regulatory mechanisms at play. We performed a comprehensive genome-scale in situ expression screen of 921 transcriptional regulators in the developing mammalian urogenital system. Focusing on the kidney, analysis of regional-specific expression patterns identified novel markers and cell types associated with development and patterning of the urinary system. Furthermore, promoter analysis of synexpressed genes predicts transcriptional control mechanisms that regulate cell differentiation. The annotated informational resource (www.gudmap.org) will facilitate functional analysis of the mammalian kidney and provides useful information for the generation of novel genetic tools to manipulate emerging cell populations.

  11. Identification of anchor genes during kidney development defines ontological relationships, molecular subcompartments and regulatory pathways

    Thiagarajan, RD; Georgas, KM; Rumballe, BA; Lesieur, E; Chiu, HS; Taylor, D; Tang, DT; Grimmond, SM; Little, MH. PLoS ONE. vol. 6(2) February 2012.

    The development of the mammalian kidney is well conserved from mouse to man. Despite considerable temporal and spatial data on gene expression in mammalian kidney development, primarily in rodent species, there is a paucity of genes whose expression is absolutely specific to a given anatomical compartment and/or developmental stage, defined here as ’anchor’ genes. We previously generated an atlas of gene expression in the developing mouse kidney using microarray analysis of anatomical compartments collected via laser capture microdissection. Here, this data is further analysed to identify anchor genes via stringent bioinformatic filtering followed by high resolution section in situ hybridisation performed on 200 transcripts selected as specific to one of 11 anatomical compartments within the midgestation mouse kidney. A total of 37 anchor genes were identified across 6 compartments with the early proximal tubule being the compartment richest in anchor genes. Analysis of minimal and evolutionarily conserved promoter regions of this set of 25 anchor genes identified enrichment of transcription factor binding sites for Hnf4a and Hnf1b, RbpJ (Notch signalling), PPARγ:RxRA and COUP-TF family transcription factors. This was reinforced by GO analyses which also identified these anchor genes as targets in processes including epithelial proliferation and proximal tubular function. As well as defining anchor genes, this large scale validation of gene expression identified a further 92 compartment-enriched genes able to subcompartmentalise key processes during murine renal organogenesis spatially or ontologically. This included a cohort of 13 ureteric epithelial genes revealing previously unappreciated compartmentalisation of the collecting duct system and a series of early tubule genes suggesting that segmentation into proximal tubule, loop of Henle and distal tubule does not occur until the onset of glomerular vascularisation. Overall, this study serves to illuminate previously ill-defined stages of patterning and will enable further refinement of the lineage relationships within mammalian kidney development.

  12. Identification of novel markers of mouse fetal ovary development

    Chen, H; Palmer, JS; Thiagarajan, RD; Dinger, ME; Lesieur, E; Chiu, H; Schulz, A; Spiller, C; Grimmond, SM; Little, MH; Koopman, P; Wilhelm, D. PLoS ONE. vol. 7(7) 2012.

    In contrast to the developing testis, molecular pathways driving fetal ovarian development have been difficult to characterise. To date no single master regulator of ovarian development has been identified that would be considered the female equivalent of Sry. Using a genomic approach we identified a number of novel protein-coding as well as non-coding genes that were detectable at higher levels in the ovary compared to testis during early mouse gonad development. We were able to cluster these ovarian genes into different temporal expression categories. Of note, Lrrc34 and AK015184 were detected in XX but not XY germ cells before the onset of sex-specific germ cell differentiation marked by entry into meiosis in an ovary and mitotic arrest in a testis. We also defined distinct spatial expression domains of somatic cell genes in the developing ovary. Our data expands the set of markers of early mouse ovary differentiation and identifies a classification of early ovarian genes, thus providing additional avenues with which to dissect this process.

  13. Use of in situ hybridization to examine gene expression in the embryonic, neonatal, and adult urogenital system

    Rumballe, BA; Chiu, HS; Georgas, KM; Little, MH. Methods Mol Biol. vol. 886, 223–39. 2012.

    Studies into the molecular basis of morphogenesis frequently begin with investigations into gene expression across time and cell type in that organ. One of the most anatomically informative approaches to such studies is the use of in situ hybridization, either of intact or histologically sectioned tissues. Here, we describe the optimization of this approach for use in the temporal and spatial analysis of gene expression in the urogenital system, from embryonic development to the postnatal period. The methods described are applicable for high throughput analysis of large gene sets. As such, ISH has become a powerful technique for gene expression profiling and is valuable for the validation of profiling analyses performed using other approaches such as microarrays.

  14. Access and use of the GUDMAP database of genitourinary development

    Davies, JA; Little, MH; Aronow, B; Armstrong, J; Brennan, J; Lloyd-MacGilp, S; Armit, C; Harding, S; Piu, X; Roochun, Y; Haggarty, B; Houghton, D; Davidson, D; Baldock, R. Methods Mol Biol. vol. 886, 185–201. 2012.

    The Genitourinary Development Molecular Atlas Project (GUDMAP) aims to document gene expression across time and space in the developing urogenital system of the mouse, and to provide access to a variety of relevant practical and educational resources. Data come from microarray gene expression profiling (from laser-dissected and FACS-sorted samples) and in situ hybridization at both low (whole-mount) and high (section) resolutions. Data are annotated to a published, high-resolution anatomical ontology and can be accessed using a variety of search interfaces. Here, we explain how to run typical queries on the database, by gene or anatomical location, how to view data, how to perform complex queries, and how to submit data.

  15. Nephron formation adopts a novel spatial topology at cessation of nephrogenesis

    Rumballe, BA; Georgas, KM; Combes, AN; Ju, AL; Gilbert, T; Little, MH. Dev Biol. vol. 360(1), 110–22. December 2011.

    Nephron number in the mammalian kidney is known to vary dramatically, with postnatal renal function directly influenced by nephron complement. What determines final nephron number is poorly understood but nephron formation in the mouse kidney ceases within the first few days after birth, presumably due to the loss of all remaining nephron progenitors via epithelial differentiation. What initiates this event is not known. Indeed, whether nephron formation occurs in the same way at this time as during embryonic development has also not been examined. In this study, we investigate the key cellular compartments involved in nephron formation; the ureteric tip, cap mesenchyme and early nephrons; from postnatal day (P) 0 to 6 in the mouse. High resolution analyses of gene and protein expression indicate that loss of nephron progenitors precedes loss of ureteric tip identity, but show spatial shifts in the expression of cap mesenchyme genes during this time. In addition, cap mesenchymal volume and rate of proliferation decline prior to birth. Section-based 3D modeling and Optical Projection Tomography revealed a burst of ectopic nephron induction, with the formation of multiple (up to 5) nephrons per ureteric tip evident from P2. While the distal-proximal patterning of these nephrons occurred normally, their spatial relationship with the ureteric compartment was altered. We propose that this phase of nephron formation represents an acceleration of differentiation within the cap mesenchyme due to a displacement of signals within the nephrogenic niche.

  16. Defining and redefining the nephron progenitor population

    Hendry, C; Rumballe, B; Moritz, K; Little, MH. Pediatr Nephrol. vol. 26(9), 1395–406. September 2011.

    It has long been appreciated that the mammalian kidney arises via reciprocal interactions between an epithelial ureteric epithelium and the surrounding metanephric mesenchyme. More recently, lineage tracing has confirmed that the portion of the metanephric mesenchyme closest to the advancing ureteric tips, the cap mesenchyme, represents the progenitor population for the nephron epithelia. This Six2(+)Cited1(+) population undergoes self-renewal throughout nephrogenesis while retaining the potential to epithelialize. In contrast, the Foxd1(+) portion of the metanephric mesenchyme shows no epithelial potential, developing instead into the interstitial, perivascular, and possibly endothelial elements of the kidney. The cap mesenchyme rests within a nephrogenic niche, surrounded by the stroma and the ureteric tip. While the role of Wnt signaling in nephron induction is known, there remains a lack of clarity over the intrinsic and extrinsic regulation of cap mesenchyme specification, self-renewal, and nephron potential. It is also not known what regulates cessation of nephrogenesis, but there is no nephron generation in response to injury during the postnatal period. In this review, we will examine what is and is not known about this nephron progenitor population and discuss how an increased understanding of the regulation of this population may better explain the observed variation in final nephron number and potentially facilitate the reinitiation or prolongation of nephron formation.

  17. Refining transcriptional programs in kidney development by integration of deep RNA-sequencing and array-based spatial profiling

    Thiagarajan, RD; Cloonan, N; Gardiner, BB; Mercer, TR; Kolle, G; Nourbakhsh, E; Wani, S; Tang, D; Krishnan, K; Georgas, KM; Rumballe, BA; Chiu, HS; Steen, JA; Mattick, JS; Little, MH; Grimmond, SM. BMC Genomics. vol. 12, 441. September 2011.

    BACKGROUND: The developing mouse kidney is currently the best-characterized model of organogenesis at a transcriptional level. Detailed spatial maps have been generated for gene expression profiling combined with systematic in situ screening. These studies, however, fall short of capturing the transcriptional complexity arising from each locus due to the limited scope of microarray-based technology, which is largely based on "gene-centric" models. RESULTS: To address this, the polyadenylated RNA and microRNA transcriptomes of the 15.5 dpc mouse kidney were profiled using strand-specific RNA-sequencing (RNA-Seq) to a depth sufficient to complement spatial maps from pre-existing microarray datasets. The transcriptional complexity of RNAs arising from mouse RefSeq loci was catalogued; including 3568 alternatively spliced transcripts and 532 uncharacterized alternate 3’ UTRs. Antisense expressions for 60% of RefSeq genes was also detected including uncharacterized non-coding transcripts overlapping kidney progenitor markers, Six2 and Sall1, and were validated by section in situ hybridization. Analysis of genes known to be involved in kidney development, particularly during mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, showed an enrichment of non-coding antisense transcripts extended along protein-coding RNAs. CONCLUSION: The resulting resource further refines the transcriptomic cartography of kidney organogenesis by integrating deep RNA sequencing data with locus-based information from previously published expression atlases. The added resolution of RNA-Seq has provided the basis for a transition from classical gene-centric models of kidney development towards more accurate and detailed "transcript-centric" representations, which highlights the extent of transcriptional complexity of genes that direct complex development events.

  18. Defining the molecular character of the developing and adult kidney podocyte

    Brunskill, EW; Georgas, K; Rumballe, B; Little, MH; Potter, SS. PLoS ONE. vol. 6(9) 2011.

    BACKGROUND: The podocyte is a remarkable cell type, which encases the capillaries of the kidney glomerulus. Although mesodermal in origin it sends out axonal like projections that wrap around the capillaries. These extend yet finer projections, the foot processes, which interdigitate, leaving between them the slit diaphragms, through which the glomerular filtrate must pass. The podocytes are a subject of keen interest because of their key roles in kidney development and disease. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this report we identified and characterized a novel transgenic mouse line, MafB-GFP, which specifically marked the kidney podocytes from a very early stage of development. These mice were then used to facilitate the fluorescent activated cell sorting based purification of podocytes from embryos at E13.5 and E15.5, as well as adults. Microarrays were then used to globally define the gene expression states of podocytes at these different developmental stages. A remarkable picture emerged, identifying the multiple sets of genes that establish the neuronal, muscle, and phagocytic properties of podocytes. The complete combinatorial code of transcription factors that create the podocyte was characterized, and the global lists of growth factors and receptors they express were defined. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The complete molecular character of the in vivo podocyte is established for the first time. The active molecular functions and biological processes further define their unique combination of features. The results provide a resource atlas of gene expression patterns of developing and adult podocytes that will help to guide further research of these incredible cells.

  19. The GUDMAP database–an online resource for genitourinary research

    Harding, SD; Armit, C; Armstrong, J; Brennan, J; Cheng, Y; Haggarty, B; Houghton, D; Lloyd-MacGilp, S; Pi, X; Roochun, Y; Sharghi, M; Tindal, C; McMahon, AP; Gottesman, B; Little, MH; Georgas, K; Aronow, B; Potter, SS; Brunskill, EW; Southard-Smith, EM; Mendelsohn, C; Baldock, RA; Davies, JA; Davidson, D. Development. vol. 138(13), 2845–53. July 2011.

    The GenitoUrinary Development Molecular Anatomy Project (GUDMAP) is an international consortium working to generate gene expression data and transgenic mice. GUDMAP includes data from large-scale in situ hybridisation screens (wholemount and section) and microarray gene expression data of microdissected, laser-captured and FACS-sorted components of the developing mouse genitourinary (GU) system. These expression data are annotated using a high-resolution anatomy ontology specific to the developing murine GU system. GUDMAP data are freely accessible at www.gudmap.org via easy-to-use interfaces. This curated, high-resolution dataset serves as a powerful resource for biologists, clinicians and bioinformaticians interested in the developing urogenital system. This paper gives examples of how the data have been used to address problems in developmental biology and provides a primer for those wishing to use the database in their own research.

  20. Expression of metanephric nephron-patterning genes in differentiating mesonephric tubules

    Georgas, KM; Chiu, HS; Lesieur, E; Rumballe, BA; Little, MH. Dev Dyn. vol. 240(6), 1600–12. June 2011.

    The metanephros is the functional organ in adult amniotes while the mesonephros degenerates. However, parallel tubulogenetic events are thought to exist between mesonephros and metanephros. Mesonephric tubules are retained in males and differentiate into efferent ducts of the male reproductive tract. By examining the murine mesonephric expression of markers of distinct stages and regions of metanephric nephrons during tubule formation and patterning, we provide further evidence to support this common morphogenetic mechanism. Renal vesicle, early proximal and distal tubule, loop of Henle, and renal corpuscle genes were expressed by mesonephric tubules. Vip, Slc6a20b, and Slc18a1 were male-specific. In contrast, mining of the GUDMAP database identified candidate late mesonephros-specific genes, 10 of which were restricted to the male. Among the male-specific genes are candidates for regulating ion/fluid balance within the efferent ducts, thereby regulating sperm maturation and genes marking tubule-associated neurons potentially critical for normal male reproductive tract function.

  21. Comparative gene expression analysis of genital tubercle development reveals a putative appendicular Wnt7 network for the epidermal differentiation

    Chiu, HS; Szucsik, JC; Georgas, KM; Jones, JL; Rumballe, BA; Tang, D; Grimmond, SM; Lewis, AG; Aronow, B; Lessard, JL; Little, MH. Developmental Biology. vol. 344(2), 1071–87. August 2010.

    Here we describe the first detailed catalog of gene expression in the developing lower urinary tract (LUT), including epithelial and mesenchymal portions of the developing bladder, urogenital sinus, urethra, and genital tubercle (GT) at E13 and E14. Top compartment-specific genes implicated by the microarray data were validated using whole-mount in situ hybridization (ISH) over the entire LUT. To demonstrate the potential of this resource to implicate developmentally critical features, we focused on gene expression patterns and pathways in the sexually indeterminate, androgen-independent GT. GT expression patterns reinforced the proposed similarities between development of GT, limb, and craniofacial prominences. Comparison of spatial expression patterns predicted a network of Wnt7a-associated GT-enriched epithelial genes, including Gjb2, Dsc3, Krt5, and Sostdc1. Known from other contexts, these genes are associated with normal epidermal differentiation, with disruptions in Dsc3 and Gjb2 showing palmo-plantar keratoderma in the limb. We propose that this gene network contributes to normal foreskin, scrotum, and labial development. As several of these genes are known to be regulated by, or contain cis elements responsive to retinoic acid, estrogen, or androgen, this implicates this pathway in the later androgen-dependent development of the GT.

  22. Molecular anatomy of the kidney: what have we learned from gene expression and functional genomics?

    Rumballe, B; Georgas, K; Wilkinson, L; Little, MH. Pediatr Nephrol. vol. 25(6), 1005–16. June 2010.

    The discipline of paediatric nephrology encompasses the congenital nephritic syndromes, renal dysplasias, neonatal renal tumours, early onset cystic disease, tubulopathies and vesicoureteric reflux, all of which arise due to defects in normal kidney development. Indeed, congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT) represent 20-30% of prenatal anomalies, occurring in 1 in 500 births. Developmental biologists have studied the anatomical and morphogenetic processes involved in kidney development for the last five decades. However, with the advent of transgenic mice, the sequencing of the genome, improvements in mutation detection and the advent of functional genomics, our understanding of the molecular basis of kidney development has grown significantly. Here we discuss how the advent of new genetic and genomics approaches has added to our understanding of kidney development and paediatric renal disease, as well as identifying areas in which we are still lacking knowledge.

  23. Analysis of early nephron patterning reveals a role for distal RV proliferation in fusion to the ureteric tip via a cap mesenchyme-derived connecting segment.

    Georgas, K; Rumballe, B; Valerius, MT; Chiu, HS; Thiagarajan, RD; Lesieur, E; Aronow, B; Brunskill, EW; Combes, AN; Tang, D; Taylor, D; Grimmond, SM; Potter, SS; McMahon, AP; Little, MH. Dev Biol. vol. 332(2), 273–86. August 2009.

    While nephron formation is known to be initiated by a mesenchyme-to-epithelial transition of the cap mesenchyme to form a renal vesicle (RV), the subsequent patterning of the nephron and fusion with the ureteric component of the kidney to form a patent contiguous uriniferous tubule has not been fully characterized. Using dual section in situ hybridization (SISH)/immunohistochemistry (IHC) we have revealed distinct distal/proximal patterning of Notch, BMP and Wnt pathway components within the RV stage nephron. Quantitation of mitoses and Cyclin D1 expression indicated that cell proliferation was higher in the distal RV, reflecting the differential developmental programs of the proximal and distal populations. A small number of RV genes were also expressed in the early connecting segment of the nephron. Dual ISH/IHC combined with serial section immunofluorescence and 3D reconstruction revealed that fusion occurs between the late RV and adjacent ureteric tip via a process that involves loss of the intervening ureteric epithelial basement membrane and insertion of cells expressing RV markers into the ureteric tip. Using Six2-eGFPCre x R26R-lacZ mice, we demonstrate that these cells are derived from the cap mesenchyme and not the ureteric epithelium. Hence, both nephron patterning and patency are evident at the late renal vesicle stage.

  24. Three-dimensional visualization of testis cord morphogenesis, a novel tubulogenic mechanism in development

    Combes, AN; Lesieur, E; Harley, VR; Sinclair, AH; Little, MH; Wilhelm, D; Koopman, P. Dev Dyn. vol. 238(5), 1033–41. May 2009.

    Testis cords are specialized tubes essential for generation and export of sperm, yet the mechanisms directing their formation, and the regulation of their position, size, shape, and number remain unclear. Here, we use a novel fluorescence-based three-dimensional modeling approach to show that cords initially form as a network of irregular cell clusters that are subsequently remodeled to form regular parallel loops, joined by a flattened plexus at the mesonephric side. Variation in cord number and structure demonstrates that cord specification is not stereotypic, although cord alignment and diameter becomes relatively consistent, implicating compensatory growth mechanisms. Branched, fused, and internalized cords were commonly observed. We conclude that the tubule-like structure of testis cords arise through a novel form of morphogenesis consisting of coalescence, partitioning, and remodeling. The methods we describe are applicable to investigating defects in testis cord development in mouse models, and more broadly, studying morphogenesis of other tissues.

  25. Atlas of gene expression in the developing kidney at microanatomic resolution

    Brunskill, EW; Aronow, B; Georgas, K; Rumballe, B; Valerius, MT; Aronow, B; Kaimal, V; Jegga, AG; Yu, J; Grimmond, SM; McMahon, AP; Patterson, LT; Little, MH; Potter, SS. Dev Cell. vol. 15(5), 781–91. November 2008.

    Kidney development is based on differential cell-type-specific expression of a vast number of genes. While multiple critical genes and pathways have been elucidated, a genome-wide analysis of gene expression within individual cellular and anatomic structures is lacking. Accomplishing this could provide significant new insights into fundamental developmental mechanisms such as mesenchymal-epithelial transition, inductive signaling, branching morphogenesis, and segmentation. We describe here a comprehensive gene expression atlas of the developing mouse kidney based on the isolation of each major compartment by either laser capture microdissection or fluorescence-activated cell sorting, followed by microarray profiling. The resulting data agree with known expression patterns and additional in situ hybridizations. This kidney atlas allows a comprehensive analysis of the progression of gene expression states during nephrogenesis, as well as discovery of potential growth factor-receptor interactions. In addition, the results provide deeper insight into the genetic regulatory mechanisms of kidney development.

  26. Use of dual section mRNA in situ hybridisation/immunohistochemistry to clarify gene expression patterns during the early stages of nephron development in the embryo and in the mature nephron of the adult mouse kidney

    Georgas, K; Rumballe, B; Wilkinson, L; Chiu, HS; Lesieur, E; Gilbert, T; Little, MH. Histochem Cell Biol. vol. 130(5), 927–42. November 2008.

    The kidney is the most complex organ within the urogenital system. The adult mouse kidney contains in excess of 8,000 mature nephrons, each of which can be subdivided into a renal corpuscle and 14 distinct tubular segments. The histological complexity of this organ can make the clarification of the site of gene expression by in situ hybridisation difficult. We have defined a panel of seven antibodies capable of identifying the six stages of early nephron development, the tubular nephron segments and the components of the renal corpuscle within the embryonic and adult mouse kidney. We have analysed in detail the protein expression of Wt1, Calb1 Aqp1, Aqp2 and Umod using these antibodies. We have then coupled immunohistochemistry with RNA in situ hybridisation in order to precisely identify the expression pattern of different genes, including Wnt4, Umod and Spp1. This technique will be invaluable for examining at high resolution, the structure of both the developing and mature nephron where standard in situ hybridisation and histological techniques are insufficient. The use of this technique will enhance the expression analyses of genes which may be involved in nephron formation and the function of the mature nephron in the mouse.

  27. High-throughput paraffin section in situ hybridization and dual immunohistochemistry on mouse tissues

    Rumballe, B; Georgas, K; Little, MH. CSH Protoc. vol. 2008 July 2008.

    Section in situ hybridization (SISH) is a high-resolution tool used to analyze gene expression patterns. This protocol utilizes the Tecan Freedom EVO150 platform to perform high-throughput SISH on paraffin sections to detect mRNA with a digoxigenin (DIG)-labeled probe. The slide is mounted and imaged before performing immunohistochemistry (IHC) on the same section. The dual reaction enables a marker of protein expression to be localized on the same section as the mRNA and facilitates more accurate annotation of the gene expression.

  28. GUDMAP: the genitourinary developmental molecular anatomy project

    McMahon, AP; Aronow, B; Davidson, DR; Davies, JA; Gaido, KW; Grimmond, SM; Lessard, JL; Little, MH; Potter, SS; Wilder, EL; Zhang, P; GUDMAP, Project. J Am Soc Nephrol. vol. 19(4), 667–71. April 2008.

    In late 2004, an International Consortium of research groups were charged with the task of producing a high-quality molecular anatomy of the developing mammalian urogenital tract (UGT). Given the importance of these organ systems for human health and reproduction, the need for a systematic molecular and cellular description of their developmental programs was deemed a high priority. The information obtained through this initiative is anticipated to enable the highest level of basic and clinical research grounded on a 21st-century view of the developing anatomy. There are three components to the Genitourinary Developmental Molecular Anatomy Project GUDMAP; all of these are intended to provide resources that support research on the kidney and UGT. The first provides ontology of the cell types during UGT development and the molecular hallmarks of those cells as discerned by a variety of procedures, including in situ hybridization, transcriptional profiling, and immunostaining. The second generates novel mouse strains. In these strains, cell types of particular interest within an organ are labeled through the introduction of a specific marker into the context of a gene that exhibits appropriate cell type or structure-specific expression. In addition, the targeting construct enables genetic manipulation within the cell of interest in many of the strains. Finally, the information is annotated, collated, and promptly released at regular intervals, before publication, through a database that is accessed through a Web portal. Presented here is a brief overview of the Genitourinary Developmental Molecular Anatomy Project effort.

  29. A high-resolution anatomical ontology of the developing murine genitourinary tract

    Little, MH; Brennan, J; Georgas, K; Davies, JA; Davidson, DR; Baldock, RA; Beverdam, A; Bertram, JF; Capel, B; Chiu, HS; Clements, D; Cullen-McEwen, L; Fleming, J; Gilbert, T; Herzlinger, D; Houghton, D; Kaufman, MH; Kleymenova, E; Koopman, PA; Lewis, AG; McMahon, AP; Mendelsohn, C; Mitchell, EK; Rumballe, BA; Sweeney, DE; Valerius, MT; Yamada, G; Yang, Y; Yu, J. Gene Expr Patterns. vol. 7(6), 680–99. June 2007.

    Cataloguing gene expression during development of the genitourinary tract will increase our understanding not only of this process but also of congenital defects and disease affecting this organ system. We have developed a high-resolution ontology with which to describe the subcompartments of the developing murine genitourinary tract. This ontology incorporates what can be defined histologically and begins to encompass other structures and cell types already identified at the molecular level. The ontology is being used to annotate in situ hybridisation data generated as part of the Genitourinary Development Molecular Anatomy Project (GUDMAP), a publicly available data resource on gene and protein expression during genitourinary development. The GUDMAP ontology encompasses Theiler stage (TS) 17-27 of development as well as the sexually mature adult. It has been written as a partonomic, text-based, hierarchical ontology that, for the embryological stages, has been developed as a high-resolution expansion of the existing Edinburgh Mouse Atlas Project (EMAP) ontology. It also includes group terms for well-characterised structural and/or functional units comprising several sub-structures, such as the nephron and juxtaglomerular complex. Each term has been assigned a unique identification number. Synonyms have been used to improve the success of query searching and maintain wherever possible existing EMAP terms relating to this organ system. We describe here the principles and structure of the ontology and provide representative diagrammatic, histological, and whole mount and section RNA in situ hybridisation images to clarify the terms used within the ontology. Visual examples of how terms appear in different specimen types are also provided.